Gwen Stein, 85, from Innerleithen suffered from loneliness and became too frightened to leave her home after she lost her sight following her retirement.
But since being partnered with guide dog Bella in 2021, the former nurse says she has a newfound independence and “a reason to get up” each morning.
Gwen, who worked as a nurse for most of her life, began her career at the age of 15 and only retired in 1994 after a long and committed career, primarily in orthopaedic care.
In retirement, Gwen’s sight started to deteriorate progressively. She was diagnosed with macular degeneration and has been registered blind for three years. Having lived an independent life previously, working with and caring for people, Gwen lost all confidence in leaving her home.
For nearly a whole year, Gwen barely went out and consequently struggled with loneliness and isolation, particularly having lost her husband and living alone.
She said: “I used to try and keep people talking for longer on the phone, just so I would get more company.”
But all this changed after Gwen contacted the charity Guide Dogs.
Gwen said, “I love dogs and used to have German Shepherds when I was younger, so I decided to apply for a guide dog to help me get back some of my independence.”
Bella, a golden retriever funded by the People’s Postcode Lottery, has made a real difference.
Gwen said, “Bella provides me with companionship and a reason to get up and go outdoors. I love nothing better than to walk Bella in the woods and into town, where I can meet up with friends.”
Danyl Johnson, People’s Postcode Lottery ambassador, said: “I have loved being a part of the guide dogs’ journey and meeting gorgeous Bella and the other pups in 2018 was fantastic.
"To hear about the positive impact she is having on Gwen’s life is just wonderful and I am delighted that thanks to funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery even more people will be partnered up their very own qualified guide dog.”
Golden Retriever Bella was one of a litter of nine puppies funded for their entire lifetime by players of People’s Postcode Lottery in 2018.